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tv   Beyond the Headlines  ABC  September 26, 2010 9:00am-9:30am PST

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welcome to "beyond the headlines." i'm cheryl jennings. every week we focus on a different topic affecting people who live and work in the bay area. today's show is a rising form of abuse, digital abuse, it's called sexting. a recent report recently released by the associated press and mtv suggests more than a quarter of teens and young adults admit to sharing sexually explicit photos, videos and conversations on their cell phones or on-line. according to the study almost half of sexually active young people report being involved in
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sexting. three in ten young people report having been involved in some type of naked texting. 29% of those who sent texts report sending them to people they only know on-line and have never met in person. nearly one in five sexed recipients report they have passed those images along to somebody else. more than half of those who pass images along say they shared them with more than one person. now, in a recent report, a think before you post campaign aimed to raise awareness about the long lasting effects of sexting, the national ad council produced the following public service announcement. >> once you post your image on-line, you can't take it back. anyone can see it. family, friends, anyone. remember, thin post. while most teen-agers may see it as harmless flirting, some states are now considering penalties for sexting.
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young people across the country are now facing some serious consequences, ranging from fines to felony charges of distributing child pornography. what exactly is being done to curb sex not guilty california? how big is the problem? with me in the studio is officer frances williams with the san francisco police department. officer, i want to thank you so much for being with us today. >> you're welcome. >> you worked in the schools for nine years with community relations right now, so you have seen this go from nothing to how long big a problem? >> well, it's becoming widespread throughout the schools and not only in the schools, but nationwide. it is a problem, sex is a problem. >> if you can define it for people who don't what happened that term means, 'cause it's not a real word yet. >> that is correct. it's a combination of two words, sex, and text, combine them, it's sexting. it's commonly used throughout the schools, the children use that term.
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>> and i guess it bothers me because there isn't that much known about it. i called the superintendent of the schools and they don't have a handle on how big this problem is. you've seen this in the schools. girls more than boys or what? >> from what i've seen, it's girls more than boys. oftentimes they may have a boyfriend and then the boy might say, can you send me a photograph of yourself? so they would take pictures of themselves and then send it via cell phone, or to the boyfriend. >> so these would be sexually explicit pictures? >> that's correct. >> this is something we never grew up with. >> no. not at all. and they've sent nude and semi nude photos of themselves and i must say it's not just the girls that are doing it. boys do it as well, but from what i understand, girls do it more increase league than boys. >> then what kind of fallout with this be for those kids? >> there are consequences. first of they're minor, if they, then it's considered child
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pornography. so the actual student who took the photograph of themselves and texted it, sent it on, they could be prosecuted as well as everyone who forwarded that text, the photo text. >> every single person? >> every single person who forwards the image of a minor can be arrested as well. >> for distributing child pornography. >> we don't have any laws to deal with this right now, do we? >> not specifically for the mobile devices, the cell phone devices. but there are child pornography laws that are in place. and since there is an increasing concern and nationwide they have been looking at this. so i'm sure in the future, we will have laws. >> somebody is going to call for laws on this. now, how young are you seeing it? is it the middle school, high school? >> i understand middle school so far, but the behavior is running
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rampant and i've seen and witnessed younger ages as well as, say, like fifth graders involved in behavior. not necessarily the sexting, but the type of behavior that leads to it. >> what would you say is important for us to know as adults trying to keep an eye on this? what do we need to know for safety on the internet and on the cell phones? >> okay. number one, know your children. know their friends. it's increasingly difficult because the children are on-line and the parents work, but try to know your children, know their friends. also get the passwords for the phones. there should be no password protections on the phone or the home computer. there are program softwares for the home computer where the parents can monitor even without the child knowing about it. but get as much information as possible and talk to your child. >> i think a lot of parents think oh, i trust you and things
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will be fine. is that a good way to run your family life? >> well, you your ch trust yourn and you tell them, it's the other person i don't trust. oftentimes the dangers of children sexting are sending explicit messages or images of themselves is, do they really know the other person? they may know the first person. i mentioned earlier the boyfriend and girlfriend. so once they break up, oftentimes what's happened is either party becomes angry and then they forward the picture of the person, the young person. >> you created a whole bad cycle there. >> yes. >> officer, thank you so much for your insight on this and education. appreciate it. i'm sure we'll be talking more about this future. >> thank you. >> we have to take a break. stay with us, please, because in just a moment, we'll have much more on sexting and digital abuse. you want some fiber one honey clusters?
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welcome back to "beyond the headlines." i'm cheryl jennings. we've been talking about the topic of teen digital abuse and something called sexting in which teensr pictuexplicit comments or pictures of themselves or others through their cell phones or on the internet. a psychologist and colleagues decided to do something to warn students and parents about the damage that can be done, so they created a short video called irreversible consequences. the actors are students. here is a short clip. >> hey, sexy. what up? >> hey. not much. how about you? >> nothing much. just thinking about you. what are you up to? >> oh, homework. >> you know, if you were my homework, i'd be doing you on the taken right now, ha, ha. >> oh, my god!
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you wish. >> i do wish. my birthday wish. so what am i getting? >> okay. joining me right now are the young actors you saw, julia gorman, one of the activeses and dr. michael grogan, the director of the jeanette prandi children's center. along with them, ed berberian, the marine county -- marin county district attorney. i want to thank you all for being here to talk about the subject. it's interesting because it's really hard to get statistics about this. before we even get tho that, dr. grogan, you and your colleagues decided to come up with this because you saw a real problem in your county. >> correct. i run a children center where we interview children who are sexually abused and there were girls that came in, 13, 14, 15, were using electronic media and super charged their relationship and these girls ended up being raped as a result of their contact with perpetrators. so myself and john from the
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district attorney's office wrote a script as a way to combat and address this issue. >> you used students to do this? >> we put the script together and then went to the san marin drama program and linda took it on and the students did it. did a great job. >> wow. i want to talk with julia about that in just a moment. you're the district attorney, you did the opening monolog because you're seeing this as a problem that's getting bigger. >> it's a problem that's going to get bigger and a problem that's underreport that had you were mention ago few moments ago about statistics and it's hard to get your hand on statistics because it isn't reported. sexual assault in general isn't reported. and this new phenomenon, there just isn't any place you can go to get numbers, if that's what you're looking for. >> the movie, kids don't realize what they're doing and how bad this can be on several levels. right point.
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it is so dangerous to them. my whole goal in this is to do two things, one, get awareness out there so we can prevent the type of exploitation that is happening. and also to teach the skills to say no and to put certain boundaries. >> and julia, you were in this film, you were 17 or 18 at the time? >> yes, i was 17 years old, but i actually portrayed a 14-year-old freshman in high school. >> what was that like for to you do the movie and hear the kids who saw it? >> it was, i think, getting ready for the role in itself was emotional. i talked to some people who had been through similar situations as portrayed in the film. >> can you describe what happened to you in the film? >> what happens to me in the film is i'm a 14-year-old freshman coming into high school and very naive, i think, don't know what to expect and i meet an 18-year-old senior and i fall head over heels for him and he's very kind to me in person, which kind of contradicts the sexual
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text messages. so it kind of contradicts and so i don't realize that it's a red flag going up and warning me not to probably get closer to him. in the end, i go to a party with him and he writes me and i think it just shows girls to be aware of the sexting that's going on though they might not act like that in person, it's still going on in their head. >> and the kids who watched new this came up to you and they were quite emotional. >> there were so many girls that were my age who have been going to school with for a really long time with who came up to me and said, wow, i wish i had seen this earlier and i have gone through, like, something like this. it was really interesting, i didn't know how many girls my age were going through this. >> isn't that something? dr. grogan, when you were talking to kids, this has come up, you got two ways, internet and cell phones. >> right. >> so it's a problem. i don't think they realize that there is emotional damage that's done to the kids who are victimized and then they become victimized as they pass this
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along. >> exactly. what we try to portray in the debriefing after the film is that these are very, very serious consequences for these kids' futures. the young men in our film ended up being arrested and sent to jail. and the girl in the initial monolog recounts five years later how painful it is for her psychologically. so the scars can be devastate something. >> we have to take a break. when we come back, we'll talk about penalties and consequences in just a moment. but we have to stop for joke. dr. grogan, julia and the marin county district attorney will be back with us to talk more about teen digital abuse on cell phones and the internet and the irreversible consequences in just a moment. winning is my favorite thing. but we lost today. ♪ no, we didn't. ♪ we're the kids in america ♪ oh, oh, oh ♪ we're the ks in america ♪ oh, oh, oh
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r every pink lid you send in, yoplait will donate 10 cents to susan g. komen for the cure. with your help, we've donated $25 million over 12 years. so let's continue to make a difference one lid at a time. i'm cheryl jennings. we've been talking about teen digital abuse on cell phones and the internet. something called sexting where teens send sexually explicit comments or pictures on their cell phones. here is an example from a video produced from marin county school district. >> hey, kelly. nice picks on your page. love the ones in the skimpy bikini. >> thanks. i think. my friend jenny took them when they were at heart's desire beach last summer. we had a great time. >> hearts desire beach? nice. i know i was desiring you when i saw those pictures. maybe sometime you can model that suit for me. >> okay. we have tamed down some of the things that are actually going
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on in sex text. what you saw in this video are very, very tame. the guest who participated in the video to educate children and adults -- who produced it are here. ed what, are the penalties for somebody who transmits a sexually explicit image? >> oftentimes these teen-agers don't understand is that the same laws that apply to adults apply to them. they may be handled differently, but as far as what applies to them, it's the same. you can get into distribution of pornography, you can get into child pornography actually because they are dealing with photos of individuals under the age of 18. as you said, this is very tame what we show in the video. >> what do you see? >> you will actually see in the sexting explicit sex acts, naked
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kids, depictions of people. what you're seeing in this video and that we're showing is tamed down. >> wow. and dr. grogan, why do kids sex ed? it's bizarre to me. >> i think kids naturally are coming into their sexuality at that age and i think one of the things i cover when i talk to the kids, when i do the presentation is just that their brains are not fully developed and the last thing that develop in human beings is judgment. i think the impulsiveness connected with not realizing the consequences results in them making very bad decisions with what they're sending to other people and don't realize the ramifications that's going to happen. >> what are the ramifications? >> ed talked about the criminal ones. but as a psychology, i'm concerned about the trauma that may exist in circumstances and our movie led to the young woman being raped and if there is a misunderstanding between sexuality, then the consequences
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could be very severe to both parties. >> can involve, for instance, lifetime registration as a sex offender, which i don't think that ever occurs to the juvenile as they're doing this. >> that's what we want parents to know. julia, you were the actress in this movie and obviously this is going to stay with you for a while. but you are still seeing this. you're a young woman. you expect this to get better or worse? >> i think it's going to get worse if nothing happens to stop stop mean, as technology is geg more advanced, kids are going to use it more and sexting is going to get worse. >> as a young person, what would you tell parents and kids? >> i would tell kids to just be careful and be more conscience of what you're sending. >> kids are being cool? >> right. they think it's going to that one person. but really if you're sending it over one media, you can't trust it to just go to one person. >> good advice. and mr. ed berberian, what's your advice for parents who are just un-- disbelieving about
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this issue? >> i think they need to sit down and talk to their kids. they need to know exactly what their kids are thinking and discuss this with them and try to understand and get across to them what the consequences will be. >> and dr. grogan, i don't think the kids also realize this is going to follow them, this kind of thing, 'cause it's out there. once it's in the universe. that affects every aspect of their future. >> absolutely. one of the things we cover, i take a prosecutor and give the prosecutor and police officer in with me to do the post-discussions and one of the things we explain to them, that college admission counselors and other people are -- job applicants are checking to see if they can google them and if those pictures come up or something related to their facebook site, the consequences could -- they could lose a job or not get into a school based on their history of illegal
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behavior on the internet. >> will you be willing to share this video and what you've learned with the other counties? >> absolutely. i think our goal in doing this was to get out this message to parents and teens about the consequences so they're aware of them and can make better decision. >> julia, for adults who would listen to a young person and not another adult, what are your final thoughts? >> i really hope that this video gets shown to different kids because i think as much as it would help having adults talk to the kids, it wouldn't get through quite as much as seeing a real life thing happen and it connects more and they understand more. >> thank you all for helping shed light on this very important topic. i know we'll be doing more on this. i really appreciate your time. >> thank you. >> and we do have to take another break. stay with us. when we come back, we're going to learn about an internet service that offers help and hope for parents who are worried about their children'sssssssne
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welcome back to "beyond the headlines." i'm cheryl jennings. we've been talking about teen digital abuse, the internet can be a very scary thing to parents, especially those who are not sure how to monitor their children's on-line activities. mtv developed a public service campaign to stop the spread of digital abuse. here is an example. >> so in love, it's amazing. a few weeks ago he asked me to text him a naked photo of myself. at first i was like, no way. i don't want anyone to see me naked. i don't even want my dogs to watch me undress. but he promised he wouldn't show it to anyone. i love him. so i did it. it's no big deal. it's not like the whole world is going to see me naked or anything. >> if someone pressures you to send a revealing photo, you have the right to say no. there is a thin line between him and the whole school. >> you just never know where that will be sent. one bay area web site may offer some help to worried parents. joining me is jennifer jolly, a consumer advisor for
10:25 am that. is -- it sounds like it will help, but we need help here. >> this is going to help. nothing, like the former guests said, nothing helps as much as having a relationship with your teen-ager. but as a stepmother to two teens, it's not very easy these days. so safety web provides an on-line dashboard that helps you find out exactly what your kids are doing, who they're texting, who they're e-mailing, and identify whether they are at risk for some of these awful behaviors and at risk for doing something illegal or being the victim of something illegal on-line. >> it sounds comprehensive. how does it work? >> it works, you go in there and all you need to do is put in your child's e-mail address and it searches all the social web sites and look for patterns and it finds out if your child is at risk. so it search force words like, naked, sex, die, kill, suicide, words that raise a red flag, and let them know as experts and
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their parents know, hey, you're at risk. what you're writing about, what you're receiving, what you're sending, these are risky behavior. >> the parent gets that information and they can do something about it? >> that's right. we like to call it the three eyes. we want you to be informed. safety web helps inform you as to exactly what your kids are doing on-line. now, these are often great kids, they're doing well in school. they don't have to have these other risky behaviors to fall victim to this. so we inform you. shear what's going on. we give you this dashboard look at what's happening and then we identify what's risky here? what's normal stuff, what's normal teenage behavior, and then what are the things that are really raising the red flag for us? then the third thing we do is really help you intervene. what do you need to do? do you need to take this to another child's parents, to the school, or to authorities? >> because the kids will say, you didn't trust me. why did you do this?
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>> i know. but that's what every teen-ager says about everything. we said that as teen-agers. but it was a whole different world then. so this is a way that you can monitor their behavior without being a spy, without downloading any spyware. it's responsible, kind of like a smoke alarm or a seatbelt. it's out in the open, everyone knows you're doing it and it's a way to try to keep your child more safe on-line and really a way to be a bit of a better parent on-line. >> does this cost anything? >> it is a subscription service, $10 a month or $100 a year. i like to say the cost is a lot better on the front end than on the back end of trying to fix these things once they're out there. i worked with a teen-ager recently who had a naked picture posted. it then went on and it was the avalanche, it grew and grew and that person just paid $3,000 to a company to try to get that picture to disappear. >> how do we sign up for this?
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>> go to and you give them a little bit of information and you can subscribe. >> it's that easy? >> it is. very, very simple and provide has great solution. >> and the information, doesn't go any place else, right? >> it's safe and secure. it will walk you through how to keep that information safe. >> jennifer, thank you. >> thank you so much for having me. >> thanks for the education. this was an amazing topic. we have run out of time. that is it for this edition of "beyond the headlines." if you're looking for community resources in your neighborhood, dial 211 for help. information about all of our guests today featured on today's show and more available on our web site,, click on the community page. for all of us here at abc 7, thanks so much for joining us. i'm cheryl jennings. we'll see you next time. have a great week. bye-bye. mmmm.
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